A top knee surgeon has warned runners are at increased risk of injury due to “unqualified advice” provided by shop assistants about appropriate running shoes and trainers.
Amir Qureshi, a consultant knee and limb reconstruction surgeon at University Hospital Southampton, said sports retailers may unwittingly be putting customers at risk of injury by claiming to provide detailed assessments about limb movement – known as gait analysis – via short videos.
This information is then used routinely to advise people about the best footwear for the way they stand, walk or run and whether or not they require standard or custom-moulded foot orthotics such as insoles or support straps.
“An accurate gait assessment involves attaching markers to various points of the body and asking the patient to walk in a lab with special cameras tracking every movement of each part of the limbs, pelvis, hips, knees, ankles and feet,” explained Mr Qureshi.
“A key part is the use of a specialised plate on the floor which assesses the force going through the body and all of this information is collated and scrutinised by highly-trained people with different skills including doctors, podiatrists and physiotherapists.
“However, many shoe shops and sports stores offer investigations which are increasingly labelled as gait analysis that would not be a correct description of the information gathered.
“The methods used, such as video recordings, are not validated and no report generated for the customer to take to their GP or healthcare professional such as a podiatrist or physiotherapist."
He added: “While podiatrists use video capture as part of their analysis, they have significant training and experience in performing a full assessment to aid in the interpretation of the video along with taking account of any history of injury.
“Although I don’t believe what is happening is wilful, it is still misleading as you cannot obtain a gait analysis just by watching a video recorded on a treadmill or short walk or run and there is a lack of understanding of the data recorded and its interpretation.
“A well-intentioned orthotic can cause harm, either in the foot or ankle or the joints above including the knee, and result in the need for treatment – potentially undoing the hard work put in to get fit.”
Professional gait analysis can take up to four hours and is performed at specialist centres such as The Orthotic Research and Locomotor Assessment Unit in Oswestry.
Mr Qureshi said while there was a role for a custom insole, this should be under the direct guidance of a professional such as a podiatrist.
He called for retailers to label the services they provide correctly and, if they wished to market assessments as “gait analysis”, they should advise customers to seek a professional opinion before adopting an orthotic.
“If a retailer feels there is a different gait pattern in an individual then a recommendation to consult a professionally-qualified person should be made,” he said.
“In the meantime, I hope raising awareness will alert people to the potential problems the current situation can cause, urge them to ask questions and seek professional advice if existing symptoms worsen or new ones develop.
“For those who already have insoles or other orthotics which feel uncomfortable or if a new pain occurs in any joint, they should stop using it or risk further damage.”
Posted on Tuesday 4 February 2020